Reducing waste while traveling

Reducing Waste While traveling

Travelers can generate a lot of waste and pollution, even with the best intentions. But it isn’t hard to make a few changes that can help us avoid a lot of trash and otherwise green up our time away from home.

Tips for reducing waste while traveling

The U.S. Travel Data Center estimates that 43 million U.S. travelers are “ecologically concerned.” There are several ways that travelers can reduce waste while traveling. Here are just a few ideas to get started.

  • Businesses are responsive to their guests, customers and clients who voice concerns, so speak up. If you have compliments or comments regarding their company’s environmental performance, write a note or speak directly to the general manager of the hotel, the operator of a resort or campground, the captain of the airplane, or the manager of your tour company.
  • Book your guestrooms, campsites or meeting rooms in places that are clearly interested in protecting our environment, and let management know that’s why you’ve chosen their establishment. Encourage the places you visit to reduce waste and to implement water- and energy-saving measures.
  • Use reusable bags, storage containers and towels. Rent equipment, avoid disposables, and pack waste-free picnics by bringing reusables and recyclables home with you. Buy fruits and vegetables without packaging.
  • Purchase electronic tickets for air travel whenever possible.
  • Going on a fishing trip? Use non-lead sinkers. This will protect wildlife from lead poisoning.
  • Gas boats on land instead of in the water to reduce pollution in lakes and rivers.
  • Upgrade to the most efficient boat motor. A 4-stroke engine is quieter, 40 times cleaner, and 2 to 4 times more fuel-efficient than a 2-stroke engine. (Focus 10,000: Minnesota’s Lakeside Magazine, July 1999)
  • Keep campfire ash far from lakeshores to protect water quality.

Travel tidbit: Popular parks
   For outdoor recreation, state and national parks are a natural choice.
  • Minnesota’s State Park system is the second-oldest in the U.S., and includes 70 state parks and recreation areas that total more than 240,000 acres. State parks hosted over 8.5 million visitors in 1998, offering hiking, camping, interpretive programs, bike trails, tours and exhibits for the whole family to enjoy.
  • Americans will make an estimated 291 million visits to National Parks in 2000 — nearly one visit for every U.S. citizen. Learn more about the National Park system by visiting
Visit Minnesota Parks
Visit the Minnesota DNR Web site for details about State Parks – maps, a park directory, an events calendar, and more!

Feed yourself (not the trash)

Food and packaging waste accounts for as much as half of what is thrown away in a day, especially when you are far from home. Yet there are some easy ways for you to reduce how much food and packaging you throw away.

Reusable mug

  • Reduce fast food waste and excess packaging in carryout food. “No thanks, I don’t need a bag,” may draw a curious look, but sometimes you have to speak up for what you don’t want.
  • Carry your own reusable mug to avoid disposable cups. Most gas stations or convenience stores will let you refill your own cup, and sometimes there’s a small discount!
  • Pack a cooler of food bought in bulk or deli-style (which are often “least-packaged” options) such as meats, cheeses and cookies.
  • Bring along reusable plates and flatware. Use lightweight plastic plates instead of paper plates, because they can be washed and used several times over.
  • Avoid room service to reduce the use of disposable items.
  • Ask for smaller portions when ordering food where portions are bigger than you can eat.
  • Did you grab too many packages of ketchup or mustard? They won’t spoil, so save them for next time you have a meal on the go. Same goes for napkins and other conveniences.
  • Make sure to promptly refrigerate leftovers you bring home so they don’t end up as waste.
  • If the nearest trash bin is filled, don’t toss your waste beside the can — that’s just like littering. Hold onto it until you can dispose of it properly.

Sun protectionOut and about? Protect yourself from the sunFor many families, vacations are spent outdoors. People – especially children – need to protect themselves from the effects of the sun. With one in five Americans developing skin cancer, it makes sense to follow these simple tips.
  • Wear sunscreen. Use broad-spectrum sunscreens whose active ingredients block UVA and UVB rays. The Sun Protective Factor (SPF) should be at least 15. Use sunscreen every day, even when it’s cloudy. Apply liberally and evenly before going out into the sun, and re-apply periodically — even “waterproof” sunscreen can come off when you towel off, sweat, or spend extended periods of time in the water. and should be applied frequently, especially after swimming.
  • Limit exposure. The sun’s rays are most intense from 10a.m. to 4p.m. Use shaded areas liberally during these hours to reduce exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UV). You can bring shade with you — wear a hat, shirt and sunglasses, or bring along an umbrella.
  • Teach the kids. Children are highly susceptible to harmful UV radiation, since 80 percent of lifetime sun exposure occurs before the age of 18. Teaching children about sun safety will reduce risks now and create good sun habits for them as adults.
Sunscreen: SPF 15+
Wear a hat
Wear a shirt

Transportation tips

  • Choose to walk, bike, or cross-country ski instead using motorized forms of recreation.
  • Enjoy walking tours. Walk where sensible and safe.
  • Use public transportation.
  • Carpool with friends or family to reduce miles traveled in your vehicle.
  • Use the hotel van instead of renting a car.
  • Share taxis. You create less pollution, plus you leave the driving to others.
  • If you are driving, turn your motor off when idling. Encourage tour bus drivers to do the same when your group stops for a while.

Try an environmental rental
   Try out alternative-fueled vehicles on your vacation
If you do need to rent a car when you’re away from home, perhaps you can get one that creates less pollution.EV Rental Cars was formed in 1998 to provide environmentally friendly, alternative-fueled vehicles (AFVs) to car rental customers, and is affiliated withBudget Rent-a-Car. They claim to be “the first and only environmental vehicle rental company in the U.S.,” offering travelers a low-emission option to protect air quality.The company boasts a fleet of hybrid-electric vehicles with today’s hot models from Honda and Toyota, serving major markets in California, as well as Phoenix and Las Vegas.

Check out their Web site for vehicle details, fueling locations, and cost and reservation information.

Honda Insight
Alternative-fueled vehicles minimize air pollution, are less noisy, and are very fuel-efficient.

Hotel tips

Many hotels have implemented waste reduction practices into their operations. Here are a few things that travelers can do to help hotels reduce the amount of waste they generate.

  • Let the hotel know that it’s not necessary to change your sheets and towels every day.
  • Reduce water use by taking shorter baths or showers.
  • When you leave your hotel room, turn off the air conditioner, heat, lights, television, and close the drapes.
  • Participate in hotel recycling programs by placing recyclables in appropriate bins.
  • Be sure to turn off exercise equipment, sauna, whirlpool, or tennis court lights when you’re through.
  • Leave the little bottles of bathroom amenities in the room if unopened. Share any complimentary newspapers with others. Leave it in the lobby for reuse or see that it’s recycled.
  • If available, use the hotel’s electronic check-out program on the TV. You can view your bill, approve it, and help reduce paperwork.

CouponExtra! Extra! Waste reduction makes the news


Eco-tourism builds environmental and cultural awareness of a region while minimizing the impact of visitors. It is a philosophy for travelers to follow to reduce their ecological impact on the places they visit. Eco-tours often give a portion of their fees to local preservation programs that build the local economy.

The Ecotourism Society offers travel ideas for destinations, tour groups, and many resources to help you make informed travel choices.

Tips for the eco-tourist

  • Take only the brochures or maps that you need.
  • Take photographs, but avoid disposable cameras that are expensive and wasteful. The Use Less Stuff Report recommends buying rolls of film with 36 shots rather than 12 or 24. You have less packaging waste, and you’ll save about 40 percent by the time you get your film processed.
  • Do not steal “souvenirs” from natural areas, historical areas or hotels.
  • Leave only footprints. Take out everything that you brought with you so others can enjoy the area in the same way that you did.
  • Protect endangered species and avoid purchasing products such as tortoise shell, ivory, animal skins or feathers. The U.S. Customs Service offers a list of items that cannot be imported or brought into the country.
  • When it comes to trash, you can “take it with you.” Set an example and pick up at least one piece of litter every day, especially at places with lots of tourists.

Going fishing? Get the lead out! (of your tackle box)
   Non-lead sinkers and jigs are effective and protect water birds.
Nontoxic tackleboxAnglers rely on sinkers and jigs to help them go after “the big ones.” Fishing tackle made from lead is heavy, but toxic, and is directly responsible for poisoning wildlife like loons and eagles.

But there are non-toxic alternatives. A growing number of fishing weights are made from bismuth, steel, ceramic and tungsten.

In many areas, non-lead tackle isn’t just a good idea—it’s the law. Bans and restrictions on lead are in effect in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York, as well as Canadian national wildlife refuges.

Buy environmentally friendly sinkers and jigs at the tackle shop, and encourage stores to stock non-lead alternatives. Plus, spread the word—tell other anglers about the problem, and get them to make a switch!

Find retailers and manufacturers, along with more information about lead’s risks to


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